Icon for Hire, Iodine
“I- I’ll be right there,” I hesitantly reply.
The armored shell flakes away like ash blown by ethereal wind; Vince walks toward the living room. The ambient music shifts in the background.
“I do this to myself…”
I glance at Fetu from the VIU couch, pointedly typing on a keyboard. My fingers clench and shoulders ache.
“I do this to myself…”
I leap off the couch, crossing the space between Fetu and myself without travelling distance. A glowing blueprint of the Thunderbird grows solid in my hands. The muzzle presses hard against the side of his head.
“Stop blaming someone else…”
“You never pulled me from the sim,” I hiss through gritted teeth. Quiet, so Vince doesn't hear.
“Whoa. Hey! D. Wanna put that thing away?”
“We do this to ourselves…”
“Funny,” I continue. “The more you talk, the less I want to kill you. Better start.”
“I…” Fetu swallows and meets my angry gaze. “I can't.”
“The hell you can't. Pull the plug. Turn off the power. Disconnect the interface.”
His eyes remain calm and level, “That would just reset you.”
“Reset me? I'm not some kind of machine.”
He remains silent, watching.
“I can't make reality connect…”
The muzzle lowers, hitting the desk with a hollow sound, “I'm not a machine,” I repeat. Not quite as convincing as I would like.
“I push ‘til I have nothing left…”
Fetu leans forward, still holding my eyes. “When you and I started talking, you said you wanted answers, yeah? Looking through the VIU. Remember?”
“You ever stop and wonder answers for what? What's the question?”
“I thought I would know it when I saw it,” my voice mumbles.
“But if we want to wake up, why are we still singing lullabies?”
“And you would,” he agrees. “You been runnin’ countless simulations looking fo’ answers. Flipping through them like-”
“- like a probability engine,” I finish the sentence for him. “So, what, I'm just a computer?”
“Not just a computer. You compute quantum states faster than ‘most anything in the system.”
“Great,” I say, still distant. “I feel so much better now. So what's that make you? Programmer? Hacker?”
“Nah, D, just another ghost in the machine, watchin' your system and operations.”
“Laneira. That's my name, may as well use it.” The reality of the situation begins to settle in like an old set of clothes. Then…
“I fucked up, didn't I?”
Fetu wears a calm and sympathetic expression. Convincing for software. “Not gonna lie, Laneira. You killed the exit process.”
I walk back to the VIU couch and sit heavily on the edge. “Trapping the pilot.”
“Yeah,” comes the reply, Fetu's fingers drum on the desk. “Figured it out a bit late, but you were running sims for a while.”
“I need to get the failsafe.”
“The what?” he asks.
As I acclimate and accept reality, more of the inner workings of the software opens to me. “There are only two True Names in the system. The destination and the failsafe. The pilot usually has it, but… Vince gave it away.”
“He did what? When? I woulda noticed something like that.”
I offer a weak smile, “Maybe you did, but the importance didn't register. He gave The Edge of Eternity to Raven, and she became Brencia, then…”
“Because the initial process was gonna suspend the exit procedure. Shit…” he glances at the wall as if he could see Vince beyond it. “How'd he know?”
I shrug, “Couldn't tell you. Somehow, he knew the process was in danger, took her place and entrusted her… me… us with the failsafe. And I killed it.”
“So what do we do?”
“We do nothing. I have to get to the system’s root and recover The Edge of Eternity…”